Owning The Problem: Dealing With Hoarders In Condominiums And Cooperatives

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We are often approached by board members looking for solutions to problems that arise from hoarders living in their buildings. Boards often seek legal counsel once the issue has become so severe that other building residents are affected by foul odors, vermin infestation, and potential fire hazards.

In a cooperative, the Proprietary Lease often contains a provision requiring the shareholder to keep their apartment in a habitable condition. A similar provision is often found in a condominium’s by-laws. Requirements such as this are intended to ensure that one resident’s lifestyle does not offend or interfere with other building residents and unit owners.

While landlords in rental buildings and cooperatives are empowered to evict renters and shareholders for violations of the building rules, the problem is harder to solve in condominiums where residents own shares in the entire condominium unit.

The safety of all building residents should be a primary concern of the board in both condominiums and cooperatives. As such, boards should be diligent in dealing with the issue as soon as they become aware of it. Make sure to thoroughly document each resident complaint and take photographs of the condition of the unit whenever a building employee is permitted access.

Proper documentation is important if the building requires judicial intervention to solve the problem in cases where the resident refuses to allow access despite provisions in the building’s governing documents which allow the board to access a resident’s unit in emergency situations.

Taking action as soon as practicable to get the resident the necessary assistance or to cure the violation can help avoid a serious problem before it’s too late.

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